Man holding blocked ear after swimming.

You’re on day two. Your right ear is still totally clogged. You haven’t been able to hear a thing on that side since yesterday morning. You’re left feeling off balance as your left ear does double duty to compensate. It didn’t clear up after a night’s sleep as you hoped it would. So will your clogged ear improve soon?

It probably won’t be a huge surprise to discover that the number one factor in projecting the duration of your clogged ear is the cause of the obstruction. Some blockages recede by themselves and rather quickly at that; others might persist and require medical treatment.

As a rule of thumb, however, if your blockage lasts much longer than one week, you might want to get some help.

When Should I Be Concerned About a Blocked Ear?

You will most likely begin to think about the cause of your blockage after around a couple of days. Perhaps you’ll examine your behavior from the past two or three days: were you involved in anything that could have resulted in water getting stuck in your ear, for instance?

What about the condition of your health? Are you suffering from the sort of discomfort and pain (or fever) that could be linked to an ear infection? If that’s the case, you may want to schedule an appointment.

Those questions are really just the tip of the iceberg. A clogged ear could have numerous potential causes:

  • Ear Infection: An ear infection can cause fluid buildup and inflammation that eventually obstructs your ears.
  • The eustachian tube or ear canal gets water trapped in it: Water and sweat can become trapped in the tiny areas of your ear with surprising ease. (If you tend to sweat profusely, this can certainly end up blocking your ears temporarily).
  • Variations in air pressure: On occasion, your Eustachian tube can fail to adjust properly to changes in air pressure, causing the feeling of a short-term blockage in your ear or ears.
  • Growths: Your ears can have growths, bulges, and lumps which can even obstruct your ears.
  • Irreversible hearing impairment: A blocked ear and some forms of permanent hearing loss can feel surprisingly similar. If your “clogged ear” is lasting longer than it should, you need to get it checked out.
  • Allergies: Various pollen allergies can spark the body’s immune system reaction, which will then cause swelling and fluid.
  • Sinus infection: Because your sinuses, ears and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can cause excess fluids to become lodged in your ears (causing a clog).
  • Earwax Build-up: If earwax gets compacted or is not properly draining it can result in blockages..

How to Bring Your Ears Back to Normal as Fast as You Can

So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will normally get back to normal in a day or two. You might need to wait for your immune system to kick in if your blockage is caused by an ear infection (and, if it’s the latter, antibiotics can really help). This may take up to a couple of weeks. You might have to wait even longer than that if you have a sinus infection.

Bringing your ears back to normal as quickly as possible, then, will often involve a bit of patience (counterintuitive though it might be), and you should be able to modify your expectations according to your actual situation.

Not doing anything to aggravate the situation is the first and most important step. When you first start to feel like your ears are blocked, it might be tempting to try and use cotton swabs to clean them out. This can be a very hazardous strategy (cotton swabs have been known to cause all sorts of problems and difficulties, from infection to hearing loss). If you use a cotton swab, you’re probably going to make the situation worse.

It’s Possible That Your “Blockage” is Hearing Loss

So, if your ear is still clogged after two days and you don’t have any really good clue as to what’s causing it, you may be reasonably impatient. In nearly all cases, your blockage will take care of itself after a few days. But the basic rule of thumb is that if things last for more than a week or so, it might be a good decision to come in for a consultation.

That feeling of blocked ears can also be a sign of hearing loss. And as you most likely know from our other posts, untreated hearing loss can result in other health problems, especially over time.

Being careful not to worsen the issue will usually permit the body to clear up the situation on its own. But when that fails, intervention could be necessary. Depending on the cause of your blockage, this might take a varying amount of time.

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